May 1, 2013
by Catherine Teegarden Center for Architecture Foundation
Program participants propose their re-interpretations of nearby LaGuardia Park after learning about landscape design fundamentals as presented by Scott Streeb (Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates) and Jenny Lee (CFAF Design Educator).

A diverse group gathered at the Center for Architecture on Wednesday 4.24.13 for a crash course on landscape architecture, culminating in their own designs for a new Memorial Park for Fiorella LaGuardia across the street from the Center. The program, Urban Parks & Plazas, was the first in a series of new public programs offered by the Center for Architecture Foundation. Called Design Insider, the series aims to nurture public understanding and appreciation of architecture and design in the city.

Landscape architects Scott Streeb, from Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA), and Jenny Lee, who runs her own practice and is also a Design Educator with the CFA Foundation, led the program. Lee began the evening with an overview of landscape design history, from early palace gardens to the pastoral designs of Capability Brown, which influenced the design of Central Park, and the subsequent modern designers who followed. Many participants were surprised to learn that Central Park is entirely man-made, a fact that historic slides of the pre-park landscape helped to illustrate.

Streeb focused his presentation on MVVA’s recent park projects in the city, including the Brooklyn Bridge Pier One Park and the just-completed Jacob Javits Plaza in Lower Manhattan. He walked the group through the firm’s analysis of existing conditions and the many design iterations they tested to arrive at a solution for the public plaza outside this Federal office building. His talk highlighted the design thinking that went into the project, from how to bring people in from the street to providing comfortable spaces for lunchtime use to government-mandated safety considerations.

Participants then rolled up their sleeves, refilled their wine glasses, and dove into a quick design project of their own, incorporating some of the key design ideas from the first part of the program. Asked to re-imagine the ivy-covered strip across the street from the Center to provide a more welcome space for the general public, they quickly created models which were presented to the group. Though most did not have any background in design, participants showed a wide range of thoughtful improvements.

The Design Insider series pairs professionals in the field with CFA Foundation educators to provide non-designers with the inside scoop on how design has shaped the buildings, streets, and parks we use every day. The programs are part lecture, part workshop, with after-work refreshments provided to create informal, but informative, sessions. The series continues 05.08.13, 6-8 pm with a program focusing on structure in architecture, How Buildings Stand Up, led by structural engineer Nat Oppenheimer from Robert Silman & Associates with CFA Foundation Director of Education Catherine Teegarden. The final program, Reading the Streetscape on 05.22.13, will teach participants how to glean information about how the city grew and fundamentals of building design as they look at buildings they pass every day. For more information, please contact the Center for Architecture Foundation at; 212-358-6133.

Catherine Teegarden is the Director of Education for the Center for Architecture Foundation.

Event: Urban Parks & Plazas
Location: Center for Architecture, 4.24.13
Speakers: Jenny Lee, Landscape Architect, CFAF Design Educator; Scott Streeb, Landscape Architect, Senior Associate, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.
Organizer: Center for Architecture Foundation